The Warning Signs of Pediatric Sleep Apnea

Does your child snore? While you may initially think this is an issue he or she will grow out of, it is far more likely that they will not. Childhood snoring can be a sign of pediatric sleep apnea (PSA) or sleep disordered breathing (SDB). In kids, snoring is not normal and is not a condition that should be ignored. It is often caused by enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids, but not always. Another proven contributing factor is mouth breathing caused by a narrow palate which restricts nasal breathing. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, it has been estimated that 1 to 4 percent of children suffer from PSA or SDB mainly between the ages of two and eight.

In adults, sleep apnea presents itself as daytime sleepiness or migraines and is linked to heart disease, strokes and lung diseases. In children, sleepiness, PSA and SBD often have the opposite problems: hyperactivity and behavioral problems. The young brain develops during sleep and if sleep is being constantly interrupted by PSA or SBD the brain cannot develop normally.

If your child has any of the below symptoms at night, they may have pediatric sleep apnea or sleep disordered breathing:

  • Snoring
  • Restless sleep
  • Mouth breathing
  • Bed wetting
  • Sleep terrors
  • Sleep walking

During the day, pediatric sleep apnea presents itself in the following ways:

  • Poor academic performance
  • Difficulty paying attention, or attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Behavioral problems
  • Weight gain

To combat this problem you should talk to you pediatrician (be aware for some pediatricians, PSA and SBD are not on their radar) and if tonsils or adenoids are an issue see an ENT specialist. They may also refer you to a pediatric sleep physician. Despite the best efforts of these medical professionals many children still have PSA or SBD. This is where orthodontic treatment has been shown to help. An orthodontist will use an expander to widen the palate. This is part of a more active treatment plan that not only will aid in sleeping troubles, but will also make room for adult teeth to come in straighter.

Only after a child as been assessed by your pediatrician or a sleep specialist and all medical treatment completed should orthodontic expansion be started.

Orthodontic treatment of pediatric sleep apnea patients is a new and rewarding part of modern day orthodontics. Optimal timing for treatment is ultimately based not on when the teeth are ready, but on the presence of continuing SPA or SBD. If your child is demonstrating any of the previously stated symptoms, regardless of age, I encourage you to set up an appointment. For more information on orthodontic treatment options or to schedule your complimentary consultation at Moravec Orthodontics, visit